(Jim O'Grady, WNYC)
No cell, no song
in peace we travel
New Jersey Transit train riders first came across this Zen-tastic bit of doggerel in September. It was printed on pale blue placards posted on coaches that the agency had dubbed Quiet Commute cars.
Where before it was up to riders to silence a loudmouth on the 7:03 from Morristown--techniques ranged from icy stares to garment-rending confrontations--it was now the policy of a pilot program that cell phones and MP3 players must snooze in certain train cars, that passengers might be able to do the same. Riders cocooned in silence could presumably also read a book while gazing out now and then at a lace-winged egret fishing the shallows in front of an oil refinery. (We're talking Jersey, after all.)
As of yesterday, New Jersey Transit has not only made the Quiet Commute car program permanent--but extended its reach.
The agency has added quiet cars to all peak period, peak direction trains that begin or end their trips at New York Penn Station or Newark Penn Station. Quiet cars--one at each end--will also be offered on trains that arrive in Newark or New York between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and trains that depart Newark or New York between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Website and electronic customer surveys have revealed enthusiasm for sonic liberation from "cell phones, pagers, games, computers and other electronic devices." Riders on quiet cars are also required to keep the headphone volume low and speak in a "subdued voice" that can't be heard by other passengers. Should a boor insist on verbalizing the logistics of his life, conductors press a business card in his hand with a "gentle" reminder to shut his pie hole. But nicely worded.
The agency says it will keep polling riders about the program, which now covers the busiest train lines, with an eye toward further expansion to trains that begin or end their trips at Hoboken Terminal.
To close, here's a bit of hushed history from a New Jersey Transit press release giving credit where it's due--to another train line:
"The Quiet car concept was born in late 1999 when a small group of regular Amtrak commuters asked their conductor if one car of their early morning Philadelphia-Washington train could be designated as 'cell phone-free.' The conductor agreed and Amtrak quickly expanded the concept. Within months, most weekday Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor featured Quiet Cars."